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The History of the Reith Lectures

The Reith Lectures were inaugurated in 1948 by the BBC to mark the historic contribution made to public service broadcasting by Sir John (later Lord) Reith, the corporation's first director-general.
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Lord Reith

John Reith maintained that broadcasting should be a public service which enriches the intellectual and cultural life of the nation. It is in this spirit that the BBC each year invites a leading figure to deliver a series of lectures on radio. The aim is to advance public understanding and debate about significant issues of contemporary interest.

The very first Reith lecturer was the philosopher, Bertrand Russell who spoke on "Authority and the Individual". Among his successors were Arnold Toynbee (The World and the West, 1952), Robert Oppenheimer (Science and the Common Understanding, 1953) and J.K. Galbraith (The New Industrial State, 1966). More recently, the Reith lectures have been delivered by the Chief Rabbi, Dr Jonathan Sacks (The Persistence of Faith, 1990) and Dr Steve Jones (The Language of the Genes, 1991).

Other lecturers were Jean Aitchison (The Language Web, 1996), Patricia J. Williams (Race and Race Relations, 1997) John Keegan (War and Our World, 1998) Anthony Giddens (Runaway World, 1999). In 2000, five lecturers, Chris Patten, Tom Lovejoy, John Browne, Gro Harlem Brundtland and Vandana Shiva, spoke on Respect for the Earth, and then took part in a seminar hosted by the Prince of Wales. Tom Kirkwood examined The End Of Age in 2001 and Onora O'Neill lectured on A Question of Trust in 2002. Last Year, the neuroscientist V.S. Ramachandran dealt with The Emerging Mind.

Chronological List of Reith Lecturers

  1948   Bertrand Russell   Authority And The Individual  
  1949   Robert Birley   Britain in Europe  
  1950   John Zachary Young   Doubt and Certainty in Science  
  1951   Lord Radcliffe   Power and The State  
  1952   Arnold Toynbee   The World and The West  
  1953   Robert Oppenheimer   Science and The Common Understanding  
  1954   Sir Oliver Franks   Britain and Tide of World Affairs  
  1955   Nikolaus Pevsner   The Englishness of English Art  
  1956   Sir Edward Appleton   Science and The Nation  
  1957   George Kennan   Russia, The Atom and The West  
  1958   Bernard Lovell   The Individual and The Universe  
  1958   Peter Medawar   The Future of Man  
  1960   Edgar Wind   Art and Anarchy  
  1961   Margery Perham   The Colonial Reckoning  
  1962   Prof. George Carstairs   This Island Now  
  1963   Dr Albert Sloman   A University in The Making  
  1964   Sir Leon Bagrit   The Age of Automation  
  1965   Robert Gardiner   A World of Peoples  
  1966   J K Galbraith   The New Industrial State  
  1967   Edmund Leach   A Runaway World  
  1968   Lester Pearson   Peace In The Family of Man  
  1969   Dr Frank Frazer Darling   Wilderness and Plenty  
  1970   Dr Donald Schon   Change and Industrial Society  
  1971   Richard Hoggart   Only Connect  
  1972   Andrew Schonfield   Europe: Journey To An Unknown Destination  
  1973   Prof. Alistair Buchan   Change Without War  
  1974   Prof. Ralf Dahrendorf   The New Liberty  
  1975   Dr Daniel Boorstin   America and The World Experience  
  1976   Dr Colin Blakemore   Mechanics of the Mind  
  1977   Prof. A H Halsey   Change In British Society  
  1978   Rev. Dr E. Norman   Christianity and the World  
  1979   Prof. Ali Mazrui   The African Condition  
  1980   Ian Kennedy   Unmasking Medicine  
  1981   Prof. Laurence Martin   The Two Edged Sword  
  1982   Prof. Denis Donoghue   The Arts Without Mystery  
  1983   Sir Douglas Wass   Government and the Governed  
  1984   Prof. John Searle   Minds, Brains and Science  
  1985   David Henderson   Innocence and Design  
  1986   Lord McCluskey   Law, Justice and Democracy  
  1987   Prof. Alexander Goehr   The Survival of The Symphony  
  1988   Prof. Geoffrey Hosking   The Rediscovery of Politics  
  1989   Jacques Darras   Beyond The Tunnel of History  
  1990   Rabbi Dr Jonathan Sacks   The Persistence of Faith  
  1991   Dr Steve Jones   The Language of the Genes  
  1992   None   None  
  1993   Edward Said   Representation of the Intellectual  
  1994   Marina Warner   Managing Monsters  
  1995   Sir Richard Rogers   Sustainable City  
  1996   Jean Aitchison   The Language Web  
  1997   Patricia Williams   The Genealogy of Race  
  1998   John Keegan   War In Our World  
  1999   Anthony Giddens   Runaway World  
  2000   Chris Patten, Sir John Brown, Thomas Lovejoy, Gro Harlem Brundtland, Vandana Shiva, HRH Prince of Wales   Respect For The Earth  
  2001   Prof Tom Kirkwood   The End Of Age  
  2002   Prof Onora O'Neill   A Question of Trust  
  2003   V.S. Ramachandran   The Emerging Mind  
  2004   Wole Soyinka   Climate of Fear  
  2005   Lord Broers   The Triumph of Technology  
  2006   Daniel Barenboim   In the Beginning Was Sound  



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